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It starts in May, in a small clearing in a forest in Maine. The delicate snowflakes hardly have a chance to touch the ground before they melt away under the warm spring sunshine. Barely five minutes after the first flake appeared, the gentle flurry ends, leaving no sign that anything untoward had ever happened there.

A few days later and half a mile to the east, on the outskirts of a small town, a second flurry starts, appearing out of a clear, blue sky. This time, the bright green grass is covered by a thin, white blanket that lasts for several minutes before melting away.

Ten days after the first snow fall, the town wakes to a half inch high drift in the main street. It lasts for an hour or so after sunrise, the snow and ice glitter brightly in the daylight. The towns people are bemused. The strange weather makes the local paper and people shake their heads and for a few days, it's all the town talks about.

A week after that, just when all the excitement has died down, the whole town is covered by six inches of snow in just an hour. Again, the sky is a beautiful blue and there isn't a cloud in sight. This time the County wide newspaper picks up the story. People start to get a little concerned. There are whispered conversation and rumours aplenty.

It's when, five days after the snow storm, the holly bush that grows in the old churchyard suddenly bursts with bright red berries, that the air of slightly nervous anticipation in the town turns to outright fear.

One evening, ten days after that, a sleek, black classic car purrs into town.

******

The sun is just setting as Sam steps out of the car. The rich reds and golds of the fading light seem to make the car's paint shine like oil, multicoloured and slick, while the chrome looks as though it's on fire. The light gilds Dean's hair, the line of stubble on his jaw, the long lashes that brush his cheek as he blinks. Sam risks taking an extra few seconds, just to look before walking away across the parking lot to the motel reception, as if the thought of his brother clothed in nothing but light and shadow has never crossed his mind.

Dean's leaning against the driver's door, head tilted back, basking in the last rays of the sun like a cat. The sense of wanting that's never gone, only banked, rises up and it's all Sam can do not to reach out and touch. But cats have claws and Sam knows better than to think his touch might be welcomed. It hurts to want; hurts worse to have had and know you'll never taste that again. Rejection is the worst pain of all though, so he'd rather hoard the memories and let them both pretend there's nothing wrong than risk losing whatever is left. Even if he doesn't know any more what it is they still have, because it feels as though something's broken between them; as though one night has erased a lifetime of familiarity and certainty. It feels like Dean's always one step away from leaving these days and as selfish as it is, Sam's whole life has been founded on the premise that whatever happens, Dean won't be the one to walk away.

And Sam just doesn't know what he'd do if Dean left.

He watches his brother roll his head and then his shoulders, as though he's trying to loosen tight and cramped muscles. It had been a long drive from Texas, where they'd been hunting a chupacabra that had started snacking on humans instead of livestock. The drive had been long and filled with stilted silences and awkward pauses. There were gaps where the conversation and the banter used to go that neither of them quite seemed to know how to fill. They drove until Dean couldn't see straight anymore and Sam didn't think he'd ever be able to stand up straight again. And all that time, he couldn't stop himself, glancing at Dean over and over again. He'd expected some scathing remark, because he wasn't even trying for subtle, but Dean said nothing and the expression on his face was strange and unreadable.

Sam doesn't even know what he was looking for in the car, or when they were lying silently in the dark in the motels on the drive up, staring at the tense line of Dean's back, neither of them sleeping, or why he's staring now. He thinks he's watching for something, anything to explain how he could have fucked up so badly and how he can put it right. Or maybe he's looking for some sign that Dean's just as confused, just as conflicted; that it's not anger, or something worse, that's the cause of this chasm between them.

A chasm neither of them seem to know how to cross. He just has to hope that they both want to try.

It takes an actual physical effort to turn away and go get them a room. They've done this a thousand times on a thousand different hunts but it's never been like this. Sam asks the clerk for two beds, though he has to force himself to say it. They've never shared a bed as adults, except for one night when they were too drunk on cheap beer and scotch that burnt like paint thinner, and high on adrenaline from another hunt, to bother finding the second bed. One night, whose details are still hazy and yet Sam can't forget it. Doesn't want to.

He would give anything to repair their damaged relationship. Anything but regret what happened. Anything but deny the wanting that still hums away at the back of his brain. Maybe it's a sign of just how damned he really is, but despite the awkwardness and the damage, he wouldn't change what's happened.
He tries not to show how it hurts when Dean quietly waits for him to unlock the door to their room and politely lets Sam go first, instead of fighting with him for the keys, or pushing past him, hip checking Sam into the door frame. Small innocuous touches that Sam never thought twice about until they weren't there.

The motel room is familiarly nondescript. Two beds, kitchenette, table, two mismatched chairs; it could be a room in any motel in any town, any state. He knows that Dean thinks he hates this, the motels and the diners and the never stopping, never looking back. And if he's honest, he does, just a little. But he's come to realise that this isn't just Dean's job. This is his life and if Sam wants any part in that, well it's a package deal. It's taken him a long time to understand that. Longer still to come to terms with it, but he has, just as everything seems to have gone to hell.

The worst thing is that for the most part, things haven't changed. Except they have. Their conversations are stilted where once they were, if not easy, at least easier. There's this void between them that seems to be growing larger every day. Between that and the elephant in the room that they're doing such a piss-poor job of ignoring, Sam wonders whether there's any space left for their relationship. He can't stand the thought that maybe in trying to salvage it, they're really just killing it.

Because he's discovered that he can live without a lot of things, but he knows, way down deep in his bones and his soul that he can't live without Dean. And it doesn't matter that he sounds like the 12 year old girl that Dean sometimes accuses him of being when he thinks that. It's the bare, honest truth and God, what he wouldn't give to be able to tell Dean that, to make him see that no matter what Sam's said in the past, everything, everything has and always will be about Dean. About the presence or absence of him.

And Sam was utterly, absolutely blind to it until a week ago.

But now he knows it, he can't unsee it. He wasn't drunk enough to forget the feel of skin under his hands, the soft, muffled sounds, the fingers clinging hard enough to leave bruises. Those things and a hundred more have haunted him, day and night. The worst thing is that he knows Dean wasn't that drunk either. He knows that Dean remembers. And it's killing him to think that Dean doesn't want the same thing Sam does.

It ought to be so easy, so simple. All he has to do is ask. But as he watches Dean move across the room, dumping his bag on the floor before disappearing into the bathroom, the words remain unsaid.

He honestly doesn't know which answer would scare him more.

He's sprawled across the bed, half asleep when Dean emerges again. It's rapture and torment to watch his brother's progress across from room through half closed eyes. Dean's sleek and graceful and Sam can't tell what aches more; the thought he might never get another chance to touch that skin, damp with sweat, or that they'll never be as comfortable together as they were before. He leaves when Dean turns to dress, hiding his emotional reaction as much as his physical one. He tries to pretend that he didn't see the momentary hesitation as Dean's hands reached for the towel around his waist.

As he stands under the spray, his hands dragging desperate, miserable pleasure from his body, he wonders if Dean did the same thing, in the same spot and if he felt the same way Sam does; torn open and stripped to the bone. When it comes, Sam's orgasm is harsh and wracking and it tastes like hopelessness and feels like grief.

He hates himself for the weakness, for the obsession that just won't quit. He hates Dean for being who he is, what he is, for being the centre of Sam's whole fucking world and for the fact that it still isn't enough to satisfy the need that Sam feels.

It scares him, how much he needs Dean. He thinks maybe it always has. Maybe leaving for Stanford was less about making his own life and more about hiding from his own emotions. He can't help but think that they'd have ended up in this place no matter what. He's never believed in fate or destiny, too determined to avoid the life that seemed to have been laid out for him, but he can't shake the feeling that some things are inevitable. And he and Dean? They're one of those things.

The motel towel is rough and almost see through, it's so thin, but he barely notices. He's too busy steeling himself to leave the bathroom, to face Dean again. It's been a week and he still gets the flutter of butterflies in his stomach when he sees his brother after they've been out of each other's sight. It's part anticipation, part dread and part lust. It's love and fear. It's really not fair, the way Dean can provoke the fiercest emotions without any apparent intent.

When he finally works up the nerve to open the door and leave the bathroom, Dean's already dressed and sitting on the edge of the bed, tying up his boots. Sam has one of those almost out of body moments, when everything suddenly seems to make sense and he wants to ask Dean what he's doing because what's the point in Dean getting dressed when Sam's just going to take it off again.

And then he remembers.

They don't do that. They've never done that. Except once.

And the week since has been the longest of Sam's entire life.

It'd be easier if he could just put it down to their seriously fucking dysfunctional relationship and too much alcohol. If he could think of it as a mistake, like he's terrified Dean does, he might be able to let it go; just one more in a long list of regrets and mistakes. But he can't. God knows he's tried, but the want and the need and the sense of right leave him physically aching.

He'd thought that once he'd gotten over the inevitable morning-after awkwardness, things would settle down and eventually they'd be able to move on and forget about it. But even after he'd stopped freaking out, he found that he didn't want to forget it; didn't want to pretend that he hadn't wanted and enjoyed it. That started a whole new panic attack that had seen him wedged in a corner of the room, trying to remember how to breathe normally. It was bitter irony that on the few occasions he's been that flipped out before, Dean was always the one to bring him back, to calm him down.

Once he'd gotten over that panic attack, he'd accepted that maybe he was as fucked up as he'd once accused Dean of being. He doesn't know if Dean had his own freak out, but judging by the fact that Sam had woken up alone, and knowing Dean as he does, it's almost a certainty. And Dean deals with things that unnerve him by shooting them, or ignoring them. Sam supposes he should be glad that he's got the latter response and not the former.

He can't shake the feeling that he's lost something important. He wants to reach over and touch Dean, just run his hand over his brother's arm, or sit next to him on the bed and press their thighs together. He finds himself missing things he's never had, not with Dean at least, and the mental disconnect is slowly driving him crazy.

When he's almost fully dressed, he hears Dean jingle the car keys and then the sound of the room door opening. Dean's never been all that keen on talking, at least not when it comes to things that matter to him, but lately, it's almost as though he's taken a vow of silence or something. There are times, though, when Sam's been certain that Dean was going to say something, but every time, Dean's turned away, words unspoken. Sam's sure that if he pressed, sooner or later Dean'd say whatever it was.

Trouble is, Sam's not sure he's ready to hear it and he hates that his fear of Dean's response is so strong he'd rather suffer like this than speak out. It's not in his nature to avoid conflict instead of resolving their issues, to let Dean pull his stoic silence shit whenever a subject he's uncomfortable with comes up. He's wondered, more than once, whether Dean's actually just waiting for Sam to call him on it. It's not impossible to think that Dean does want to talk, to sort this out, but is waiting for Sam to start the conversation. Several times the words have been on Sam's lips, only for uncertainty to creep up behind him and steal them away before they can be uttered.

Dean's already in the car when Sam leaves the room. He can see his brother's fingers drumming on the steering wheel, a nervous tic that only appears when Dean's feeling unsure or under pressure. It gives Sam hope, even as it scares the hell out of him. He doesn't look at Sam. In fact, he looks almost everywhere else and it's another puzzle piece for Sam to try and figure out. It feels as though he's trying to complete the jigsaw except he hasn't got a picture to work from.

Dinner consists of food so mediocre that Sam can't honestly remember what he ate, a surly waitress and a series of stilted attempts at conversation in between awkward silences that are so heavy Sam can feel them pressing down on his shoulders. He toys with the idea of raising the issue that they're not talking about, but while cornering Dean in a public place where he can't draw a gun has a certain appeal, there's nothing to stop him walking out, or even punching Sam.

He settles for watching Dean stare out of the diner window and push his dinner around his plate. Sam's aware that he's been accused more than once of being selfish where his brother is concerned, of not paying enough attention to Dean. He'd always shrugged off those comments, unwilling or unable to see the truth in the words. But after a week spent trying to analyse every expression, every word and every gesture, he's realised that maybe Dean isn't the open book that Sam had always believed him to be, or maybe it's just that he was never as guarded with Sam as he is with most people. And Christ if it doesn't hurt to think he might have lost that without ever actually knowing he had it.

When they get back to the hotel room, Dean turns on the TV and Sam's pretty certain that they watch something, but he has no idea what it was. He spends the evening staring at the screen without ever really seeing the images flowing across it. It's something to do, something to distract them.

Later, when the room is dark and the sound of their breathing is only occasionally broken by the sound of drunken laughter outside or a passing car, Sam's still awake and counting the cracks in the ceiling. The thin curtains don't quite meet in the middle and a narrow strip of sickly yellow light from the street lamp outside cuts the room, sliding over the floor and up the wall between his bed and Dean's, like a physical manifestation of the barrier between them; invisible, intangible and yet uncrossable. He closes his eyes, though he doesn't really want to sleep; it's too hard to wake from dreams of soft touches and gentle words to the cold, bitter light of reality.

Even so, it feels as though he's only been asleep mere minutes when he wakes to the sound of Dean getting up and getting dressed. It's hard work, dragging himself out of bed and into the bathroom, but he manages it. He tries as hard as possible to get through his morning routine without thinking about Dean or their disintegrating relationship.

He's concentrating so hard that his jaw aches. Between the tension headache he can't shift and the lack of sleep, he's barely paying attention to their surroundings and when he stumbles as they cross the parking lot to the diner, his reactions aren't fast enough to keep his balance. He'd have fallen face first to the concrete if it weren't for the hand that grabs his bicep hard enough to bruise and keeps him on his feet.

It's the first time Dean's touched him in a week and despite the fact that it's through two layers of fabric, it feels like a brand on Sam's skin. He's honestly shocked at the way his body reacts so quickly, even though he's thought of little else; even though he's been craving any touch at all. Goose bumps break out where Dean's hand is still wrapped around his arm and sweat prickles in the small of Sam's back. He's positive he must be flushed and flustered, like some heroine from a florid romance novel. His body doesn't care though and it clearly can't tell the difference between a sexual touch and a helping hand because he's half hard just from this and Christ, he's so royally fucked because Dean's not always great at reading people but there's no fucking way he can miss this. God, it might as well be written above Sam's head in flashing neon letters.

"Hey. You OK? Sam?"

The concern in Dean's voices sends a small ripple of want and shame through Sam. After a week of virtual silence, just hearing Dean speak is a relief. Then he feels awkward that Dean's still there to help him, still caring and all Sam can think about is how that familiar voice sounded so different when he was whispering in Sam's ear; dark and low and intimate. And close on the heels of that memory is the thought that if Dean still cares, then maybe they're not as fucked as Sam thought; that maybe there's some hope that Sam can find some way to make this right again.

"Fine. Just tripped." He doesn't even realise he's speaking until he hears his own voice. He hopes that he doesn't sound as agitated as he feels.

Dean doesn't say anything, but he doesn't move his hand either and Sam can feel his brother's silent regard. He doesn't dare look at Dean, scared of what he'll see on Dean's face; absolutely terrified of what Dean'll see on his.

When Dean finally pulls away, hand dropping, the slide of his fingers makes Sam suppress a shiver and try very hard not to remember the feel of those hands on his bare skin. It's neither the time nor the place for thoughts like that, not when they're in public and Dean's still close enough to touch. It's the first time things have been anywhere near normal and he doesn't want to screw it up by pushing too hard and forcing Dean into any kind of confrontation. Dean hates being backed into corners, literally and emotionally and if there's to be any chance of sorting this out, then Sam needs to be patient. Even if Dean never wants to touch Sam again the way he did in the dark. Even that's better than nothing at all.

Even if Sam knows he'll never stop wanting it; never stop resenting what he can't have. Even if he ends up hating them both for it.

The pause before Dean speaks again is just a heartbeat too long for his words to be anything but carefully chosen.

"Yeah, well, watch where you're going, unless you want to end up eating tarmac." Sam can tell that Dean's going for casual, but he's a mile off. He steps away from Sam and towards the diner. Sam still can't look at his brother, even as the footsteps move away, without waiting for him. He feels vulnerable, raw, relieved and as if somehow he dodged a bullet this time.

By the time he gets himself together, Dean's crossed the parking lot and is already at the door of the diner. The last thing Sam wants is another breakfast where they pretend they can look each other in the face, but he still follows Dean. He's both relieved and disappointed that Dean didn't notice Sam's reaction. It's childish to want Dean to make the first move, to be the one to broach the subject. It's also stupid because hell really will freeze over before Dean willing starts a conversation about emotions and his feelings.

When Sam slides into his seat opposite Dean, there's already a cup of coffee sitting on the table, waiting for him, together with a couple of little pots of milk and three sachets of sugar. Affection wraps around him like a soft blanket. There's a little voice in the back of his head that reminds him that Dean is his brother and that it's wrong to feel the way he does. But that voice fades a little more each time Sam comes with Dean's name stopped behind his teeth and the memory of how Dean kisses; or how he looked when Sam , made brave by alcohol and adrenaline, slid a hand into Dean's pants and proved once and for all that he was as fucked up as the rest of the Winchesters. Whatever familiarity has bred in Sam, it sure as hell isn't contempt.

Their waitress is young and blonde. Sam's always known that flirting comes as naturally to Dean as breathing. Even watching as Dean turns that charming grin on the waitress, what Sam feels now isn't just jealousy. There's a sense of sadness too. Because even if they were a couple, they'd never be able to flirt as easily as Dean and the waitress do. Even in the liberal cities, they'd have to hide that they were lovers, or that they were brothers.

It's a ridiculous thought. The chances of them crossing that line are so small as to be practically zero. And that thought hurts way more than it should, burning hot like acid in his belly.

He focuses on Dean's conversation with the waitress, trying not to glare like some kind of cuckolded spouse. There's a moment where the girl rests her hand on Dean's arm, all but fluttering her eyelashes. Dean chooses that moment to glance over and just like that, Sam flushes hot and shaky, stomach churning and palms sweating like he hasn't eaten for hours. Dean freezes for a second, eyes wide and shocked, as if he's seen something in Sam's face that he just wasn't expecting. His expression quickly melts back into flirtatious though when the waitress says something to him. His eyes stay on Sam for a second or two, then he turns back to the girl, a wide, fake smile on his lips. Sam has no idea what his expression gave away and Dean's reaction has just confused him even more. The waitress is still flirting with Dean, though Sam can see that Dean's not really putting any effort in.

Eventually, she gets around to taking their order, smiling at Sam when she guesses that Dean's not really interested any more. Sam manages a weak smile back, but as much as he wants her and her perky voice gone, he's scared of being alone with his brother. Dean's watching him, and the look on his face is thoughtful, as if he's trying to figure something out.

The waitress finally leaves them alone, making sure she swings her hips as much as possible as she walks away. Dean watches her go, twirling his knife in his fingers. Sam's not surprised when Dean turns, carefully avoiding eye contact, to stare out of the window. Confrontation is not Dean's thing, at least where family is concerned. He's always been the go-between, the mediator and there's a twinge of guilt over all the times that Sam has forced Dean to pick a side or to stand in the middle and face being isolated from both brother and father. It's come as a shock to realise that whenever Sam and Dad fought, it was usually Dean who was the loser. Sam doesn't think he likes what that says about him, that it took him so long to realise.

They sit in uncomfortable silence for a good five minutes before Dean seems to snap out of his thoughts. Sam's tried to pretend he hasn't been staring at his brother the whole time, but Dean doesn't look at him and keeps his gaze firmly turned towards the window. Sam wishes that it was dark enough outside to see Dean's reflection in the glass, because there's something a little off in Dean's tone when he speaks, like he's trying just a little too hard to be casual.

"So, what are we dealing with here?"

It takes a second or two before Sam realises that Dean's talking about the reason they're sitting in a diner in Maine. He'd originally suggested the case because it was the first thing he'd found that was even vaguely supernatural enough for them to hunt. He'd needed something, anything to get them moving because in his panic the morning after, he'd wanted something to distract Dean, to remind him why he needed Sam.

In truth, all Sam knows is that there's been snow and some kind of bush flowering out of season. He has no theories, no ideas, no answers. The fact that Dean hadn't asked any questions about the hunt hadn't registered with Sam until now. He doesn't know what that means. He likes to think that he's good at reading his brother's sometimes volatile emotions, but he's spent a lot of time the last few days without the faintest idea what Dean's thinking.

Even now, it's easy to remember waking to memories of wrestling with Dean until they were breathless with laughter; until it seemed so natural and so easy to kiss him. And once they started, they couldn't stop, just kissing as if their lives depended on it, not frantic, but just on and on, one kiss merging into the next until they were breathless for an entirely different reason. Easy to remember the way pleasure turned to fear when the sheets next to him were cold and empty.

"Sam? Hey, you listening?"

"Yeah. I'm listening. I've no idea what's causing this stuff." He glances at Dean and gets a pointed look that he has no trouble interpreting. He lets the irritation rise, using it to help push all those thoughts he shouldn't be having to the back of his mind.

"Right. So why are we here?"

Because I needed to do something; because I wanted to get away from that room, that bed, the reminders that it wouldn't ever happen again; because I thought if I pretended that it hadn't happened, then you'd stay; because I freaked out and I panicked and I didn't know what else to do.

"We had no other leads and random snow showers and holly bushes flowering in June is kind of odd." His tone sounds a little pissier than it needed to be, even to his own ears, but pissy is better than any of the other dozen or so emotions swirling around his head and turning somersaults in his stomach.

"Right. So, what do we do? Stand outside and wait for it to snow?"

Sam's saved from having to answer and probably start an argument of some kind by the return of the waitress and their food. For once, Dean doesn't dive right in like a starving man. He pokes the egg about for a few seconds, then picks up a strip of bacon with his fingers and goes back to watching out of the window while he eats. Sam looks away before Dean licks the grease from his fingers. He's just not that much of a masochist.

When he dares look back up, Dean's finished the bacon and is absentmindedly dipping his toast into the egg yolk and it makes Sam think of when they were kids; Dean has always saved the egg yolk for last. He can't help the small grin that he can feel pulling at his mouth. Dean suddenly looks up at him and the grin he gives Sam in return makes something in Sam's chest light up; bright and hot beneath his skin. It's so pathetic, that such a simple thing can make him feel so stupidly happy.

They finish breakfast in silence that isn't the familiar silence of before, but isn't the tense, strained silence of more recent days either. Dean throws some money on the table and they slide out of their seats. Dean's hand brushes Sam's as he passes him and it's an accidental, innocuous touch but it sends a tiny shiver through Sam. Dean frowns at him and Sam tries to turn the shiver into a roll of his shoulders. Dean looks away and pushes open the door. Sam wants to bang his head against the door in frustration. Instead he catches the door before it closes and follows Dean.

He's surprised when Dean doesn't head for the car, but instead turns and walks down the town's main street. He uses his longer stride to catch up and he's just about to ask where they're going when the first cold flake drifts in front of his face. He doesn't recognise it straight away and it's only when Dean stops and sticks out his hand, palm up that Sam catches on. He watches the snowflakes settle on Dean's hand for a brief instant before melting away on the warm skin and Sam's captivated by the idea of kissing and licking his brother's palm; of tasting the cold of the melted snow and warm salt of Dean's skin. He forces himself to look up at the sky instead.

"Dean..."

"What?"

"Look up."

He sees Dean tilt his head back from the corner of his eye and Sam resolutely ignores the vulnerable curve of throat. He blinks snow from his eyes and stares at the small snow shower that appears to be coming from a clear, blue sky and only in a 6 foot circle, around the two of them.

"That's...different."

Sam huffs. That's the understatement of the year.

"I was only kidding about standing around waiting for it to snow, I swear."

Sam grins, because Dean sounds half mocking, half cautious, just in case something were listening.

He starts to feel dizzy, staring up like that, and he's got half melted snow clinging to his eyelashes, so he drops his head back down. That's when Sam realises that they are the centre of attention for what looks like half the town. He feels an urge to tell the many eyes watching them that he and Dean are as baffled as anyone else over why they've got their own weather system, but from the looks they're getting, he's not sure anyone would believe them.

"They don't burn witches and heretics up here any more, do they?" He mutters to Dean, as much for something to say as anything else.

Dean's head snaps back down and his hand slides into his jacket before he catches himself. Snowflakes glitter in his hair and his face is damp. His eyes flicker over the crowd they've attracted and though he looks relaxed, Sam can sense the unease in the way Dean shifts his weight, hand still lingering near the gun the Sam knows he's carrying. Dean'd never use a gun on people, unless he was forced to, but the townspeople don't know that and often, just the threat is enough.

"Not last time I checked. I like to see 'em try, anyway."

Around them, the snow is still falling, although it seems to be slowing down. There are little piles on the toes of their boots and the shoulders of Dean's jacket. Sam's seen a lot of odd things over the years, but it's always freaky to be involved in it in anyway.

One last flake floats down. When the watching crowd realises that the show's over, they slowly go back to doing whatever it was they were doing before. They sudden lack of interest is almost as creepy as their previous staring and the out-of-nowhere snow.

Dean brushes the snow from his coat and blows on his hands, rubbing them together. The day is warm, but Sam now realises that there was a definite drop in temperature when the snow was falling, although the bright June sunlight is seeping slowly into his skin, chasing away the lingering chill.

He's about to say something to Dean when he catches sight of a woman walking towards them. She looks about 30, dark hair pulled back in a long ponytail, long black skirt swirling around her legs. There's a faint tinkling sound that gets louder as she gets closer and Sam finally realises it's a bracelet of tiny bells, wrapped around her left wrist.

Dean steps to one side, clearly assuming that she was going to pass them and the look on his face when she stops in front of them is almost comical in it's uncertainty. Her gaze jumps from Dean to Sam and back again. Her expression is considering, as if she's weighing something up and a prickle of unease makes the back of Sam's neck itch.

She raises her hand, fingers reaching out to brush a few stray flakes of snow from Dean's shoulder. Dean's quicker and he catches her wrist, making the bracelet tinkle. She doesn't fight, doesn't try and pull away so they stay locked like that for a second, then Dean lets go and takes a step backwards.

"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to startle you." Her voice is soft, apologetic.

Dean shrugs, clearly still tense.

She looks at Sam, but he's too busy trying not to be still a little spooked to offer anyone else reassurance. When she gets no help there, she tips her head back and looks at the sky for a few seconds.

When she looks back at them, her expression has shifted into something more purposeful, more intent.

"You came here looking for that." It's not a question, but he and Dean nod anyway. "It drew you here."

"Woah, wait a minute..." Dean's got a hand up, as if he's trying to ward off the words he doesn't like. For someone who hunts the supernatural, he hates being any part of it himself. Not that Sam can actually blame him for that. Freaky shit is bad enough from the outside.

"Go see Cern. He's out at the edge of town, that way." She points back the way they've come, past the diner and the motel "He'll have some answers for you. Go talk to him." She turns and starts to walk away.

"Hey, wait up. Hey. What the hell is going on here?" Sam takes a half step after her, but stops when she turns.

"Just go talk to Cern. Trust me, he knows everything that goes on in this town, he'll be able to explain better than anyone else can."

"How'd you know why we're here?" Dean has that stubborn look on his face; the one he always gets when people tell him to do things without explaining why to his satisfaction.

"Because it never snowed on anyone else. It's picked you." She's gone then in an overly dramatic swirl of skirts and dark hair.

"What the hell does that mean? Hey." Dean starts to follow, but Sam reaches out and grabs his brother's arm, trying to ignore the firm muscle beneath cloth and smooth skin.

"Dean, I don't think now's the time to start. These people don't look exactly thrilled to see us. Let's just go see this guy and find out what's going on so we can get out of here."

Dean's still glaring after the girl, but he finally nods. "Yeah, this place is starting to give me the creeps." His gaze sweeps over the people still lingering, obviously hoping to see more snow or some other weird shit. "I fucking hate being told to go see people like that though. I mean, nearly every damned case these days, there's some smart-ass muttering cryptic shit about going to see some wise man or witch. Some days I just really want to get a case with something simple like a tormented ghost or a bored poltergeist, you know."

"Yeah? You'd be bored in less than a week."

Sam, hand still resting on Dean's arm, can't help but be amused though. Dean loves to bitch about this kind of thing, but the hunt is what he lives for. Hearing him complain like this is almost enough to fool Sam into thinking everything is normal.

Almost.

If it weren't for the flash of sense memory, of his hand griping Dean's bicep hard enough to leave faint bruises while he gasped and cursed against the sweat slick skin of Dean's neck as Dean's hand turned Sam inside out and upside down. He pulls his hand away, scared he'll do something stupid, like pull Dean closer and kiss him breathless.

"Come on, let's get this thing done." He's glad that his voice isn't shaking the way his hands are, desperate to touch and to hold. He stuffs them into his jacket pockets and starts to walk in the direction the girl pointed.

"Would not. Sam. I would not get bored in a week. Damnit, wait."

Sam just tucks his head down and keeps walking. He can't deal with a petulant, pouting Dean right now. He simply wants this hunt to be over, though he's not naive enough to think that getting this one job done will mean that they'll take the time to try and do anything other than paper over the cracks in their suddenly fragile relationship.

Dean doesn't say anything else when he catches Sam up. He just falls in step and Sam adjusts his stride automatically. If Sam pretends really hard, in the way he used to when he was a kid and the only thing he wished for was a normal life, he can almost fool himself into thinking nothing's changed between them.

They walk in silence for several minutes, then the town ends suddenly. A few hundred yards further down the road is a house, set so far back from the road that it actually backs right on to the forest. When the girl said that it was on the edge of town, she wasn't kidding.

Of course, what really gives it away is the holly bush in full bloom, just outside the front door.

He glances at Dean, who shrugs. Sam feels a pang of something he can't quite name at the knowledge that he can interpret virtually all of Dean's non-verbal responses. They walk up the path to the house and Sam starts when he realises that there's a man watching them from the doorway. Sam would guess his age to be about 50 or so, although something makes him seem older and more weary. His left leg is in a cast from hip to ankle and he's leaning heavily on a pair of crutches. He doesn't seem surprised to see them and although he doesn't seem hostile, he isn't exactly welcoming either. Sam, can't shake the feeling that what he's seeing isn't the truth, that it's just a mask. The closer they get, the more convinced he is.

The man doesn't say anything, doesn't move, just watches them as they approach, until they're about ten feet away from him.

"You look lost."

"Are you Cern?"

The man's gaze jumps between Sam and Dean, then he nods in answer to Sam's question.

"Then we're not lost. There was a girl, in town and she suggested we talk to you."

"Why?"

"It snowed. On us." Sam hears Dean's soft snort from slightly behind him.

"Why are you here?"

"We told you, it snowed on us, in Maine, in the middle of June." Dean sounds annoyed, but Sam can hear the unease under it.

"No. Why are you here, in this town? Why now?" Though his pose is unchanged, Sam can almost feel the interest behind the questions.

"We heard about the snow, and the holly." Cern's eyes jump to the holly bush beside him, heavy with red berries. There's a hint of a smile and something knowing in that expression.

"So? It's odd, sure, but most people wouldn't bother driving to a place that's right next door to the middle of nowhere just to see it."

"Yeah, well, we're not most people." Sam can feel a muscle jump in his jaw. The words to refute what Dean says are on the tip of his tongue when Sam remembers the shocking joy of actually kissing Dean, of knowing the lips opening under his were his brothers. He lost the claim to any form of normality seven days, a thousand miles and a handful of States ago. Not that he's been counting.

"Maybe, maybe not. Still doesn't explain why you're here."

"It's what we do. Check out anything odd." Sam's embarrassingly pleased when his voice sounds normal.

"A taste for the supernatural, then?"

"I wouldn't say a taste..." He stops when Dean nudges him with a elbow "Yeah, sure. Something like that."

"Uh-huh. You boys partners then?"

Cern looks at Dean when he asks and Sam again has the impression that it's a loaded question. Dean hesitates for just a second and Sam finds himself holding his breath.

"I... Yeah. I'm Dean, this is Sam. My brother."

"Brothers? You always work together?" Cern looks from Dean to Sam and back again.

"Yeah."

"Good. You'd better come inside. We got lots to talk about and we might as well do it in comfort."

They follow Cern as he makes his way slowly and painfully through the house. The inside is dim after the bright summer sunshine and Sam can't make out much as Cern leads them into the kitchen. He waves them to seats around the heavy oak table. The kitchen is old fashioned, stone floor, large wood burning stove. It's almost uncomfortably warm and there's a smell of burning herbs in the air. Cern sets a kettle on the stove and carefully measures what Sam assumes is tea of some kind into an old, brown teapot.

Sam watches Dean pull a face at the thought of tea, but he catches Sam's eye and keeps whatever he was going to say to himself. Cern leans against the kitchen counter, left leg in front of him, and bracing himself on one crutch, not even trying to pretend he isn't watching them. Sam fights the urge to fidget and when Dean's knee bumps his under the table for the third time, he knows that Dean's just as twitchy. Sam just hopes that Cern has something useful to tell them.

When the kettle finally boils, Cern pours the water carefully into the teapot and while it's brewing, he pulls three mismatched mugs from the sink drainer and holds them out. Sam gets up and takes them from him, putting them on the table, then taking two teaspoons and a pot that, if the golden dribble down the side is anything to go by, holds honey. Cern passes over the teapot, and follows Sam to the table, where they both sit. After Cern has arranged his leg and crutches to his satisfaction, he pours them each a cup of tea, pushing a cup towards Dean and then another towards Sam.

The scent of herbs and something spicy, like cloves or ginger wafts up. Dean sniffs cautiously, then takes a careful sip. He looks surprised for a moment, then takes another drink. Sam pulls the honey pot closer and spoons a little into his cup. When it's dissolved he takes a drink. He's never tasted tea like it. It's almost like chai tea, but under the spice and the sweetness of the honey, he can taste herbs and something bitter.

"Better than you were expecting?" Cern sounds amused. Sam catches Dean's eye and he suspects that his expression is as sheepish as Dean's.

"Yeah. Thanks." Dean gives a half salute with his cup.

They drink in silence for a minute or two, then Cern puts his cup down and looks at them. "What do you boys know about the the Lords of the Woods?"

Sam glances at Dean, but all he gets is a shrug. "Nothing, except I'm guessing that they're pagan gods of some kind."

"Sort of. See, people used to believe that the year was divided into two; winter solstice to summer and summer solstice to winter, and that those two seasons each had their own lord. The Lord of the Greenwood, the Oak King, ruled the season from Yule to summer and the Lord of the Winterwood, the Holly King, ruled from summer to Yule.

Every year on the winter and summer solstices, the two Lords of the Woods meet and fight each other. The winner rules the earth and the seasons for a half year. It's been that way for thousands of years. Like the cycle of life and death, keeping the seasons in check."

Dean turns, looking back towards the front of the house where the holly bush was. Cern nods, as pleased that Dean's made a connection.

"But something's gone wrong?" Dean asks, looking back at Cern.

"Not yet, but will, unless something is done."

"What?" Sam's honestly intrigued. Despite their work, they almost never get involved in anything to do with the older pagan gods.

"The summer solstice is tomorrow. Every year, on each solstice, there's a ritual performed that wakes the sleeping King and calls him to do battle with his brother."

"Brother?"

"Oh yes, the kings are brothers. Didn't I mention that?" There's a mischievous look in Cern's eyes that Sam's not comfortable with, but before he can say anything, Cern carries on "Usually, in the days leading up to the solstice, there are other, smaller ceremonies performed; thanks for the previous season, welcome to the new King, that kind of thing."

"And the ceremonies haven't been performed? That's why there's snow and holly bushes flowering in June?" Sam's starting to understand what's going on.

"Yes."

"If this ritual is performed tomorrow, will that put everything back the way it should be?"

"If it's done right, yeah."

"Right. So, I'm guessing that there's a particular place where this ceremony has to happen? Somewhere difficult to get to with a broken leg, say?"

"Yeah." Cern is grinning now, utterly unrepentant.

Dean slumps in his seat. "Fine, but this ritual better not involve bathing in freezing streams, chanting or silly robes."

Cern laughs, loudly. "Don't worry, none of that. It's a simple ceremony and I'll explain it all to you."

"You seem very sure we'll do it." Sam hides a grin at Dean's slightly petulant tone of voice. His brother knows full well that he's been roped into something without realising it, but that doesn't mean he likes it.

"You came here for a reason. Something was calling you here."

"I doubt it."

"Really? How do you explain the snow that fell on you? I'd say that's about as clear a sign as you'll get." Cern looks slightly smug. Sam doesn't quite know how to take this news. He's not sure how to feel about the possibility that they were called here. He's not sure what that means for his relationship with Dean, if it means anything at all.

He risks a look at Dean while Cern pretends to be examining something interesting in the bottom of his cup. Dean raises an eyebrow, clearly asking whether Sam agrees. Sam doesn't sigh out loud, but he wants to. Instead, he nods. They haven't really got a choice and honestly, if this thing actually goes off without a hitch or any unexpected gate crashers to the ritual, it's going to be a damned sight easier than 90% of their hunts.

"OK. Wait, does it need both of us to do this ritual?" Sam knows that Dean's never been interested in rituals, but it still makes something cold and bitter settle in his gut and he can't help but wonder if it's more the case that Dean doesn't want to do this with Sam than trying to get out of something he finds tedious.

Cern frowns. "No, it doesn't need both of you, but I think it would work better if you were both there. Being brothers, and all." He places just the tiniest emphasis on 'all' and Sam fights to stop a flush he feels making its way to his cheeks. Dean's staring at the table top, as if it's fascinating.

"Right." Sam nearly chokes and has to clear his throat before he can continue. Whatever happens with this ritual, he needs to sort his relationship with Dean out, before it falls apart and destroys them both. He can't carry on like this, the pain is going to drive him insane, or worse, make him hate Dean.

And nothing else could possibly be worse than that.

"So, what do we need to do for this ritual then?" Dean is pointedly not looking at Sam when he asks and Sam catches Cern frowning at them again, eyes darting between them.

"Come with me, I'll give you all the things you need and take you through the ritual. You'll need to practice as much as possible between now and sunset tomorrow, because the ritual must be perfect or it won't work." He stands painfully and Sam moves to one side to help as Dean moves to the other. It's another stab in Sam's soul, to be reminded of how well they'd been working together before it all went to hell.

The next few hours are a blur of incense, aromatic oils, and the flicker of candles. They go over and over the ritual, Cern divides up the tasks and the few words that make up the whole ceremony between them and then drills them ruthlessly, over and over until finally the candles are burnt down and Sam's eyes are watering from the smoke filling the house. It's almost like being a kid again, with Dad training them, day after day, always pointing out flaws, never happy, always wanting one more try. That discipline and training has served both he and Dean well over the years, but even looking back with an adult's eyes. Sam still resents the being treated like nothing more than a foot soldier in Dad's war.

Cern lets them take a break from time to time and provides sandwiches at lunchtime and some kind of spicy stew, full of meat and vegetables, with crusty bread to soak in the gravy in the evening. By the time he agrees to stop for the day, it's almost dark outside and Sam can't remember ever feeling so tired. They leave the house, trails of smoke following them halfway down the path before fading away.

The town is quiet as they walk back down the main street to the motel. Dean checks that the Impala is still safe and sound in the parking lot before opening the door to their room and entering. He's already stripping when Sam enters and while Sam wants to shed clothes that he suspects will be permanently impregnated with the scent of myrrh, pine, wild thyme and who knew what else, he's frozen as he watches smooth skin revealed by Dean's undressing.

It would be so easy to walk across the room, to press his chest up against Dean's back; wrap his arms around his brother's waist and press kisses and bites to Dean's neck. He's actually moved a step before he catches himself.

He turns away, sitting at the table and booting up the laptop; anything to hide his reaction and his confusion from Dean. Anything to distract himself from his arousal.

"I'm going to grab a shower. I don't think I'm ever going to get the smell of that stuff out of these jeans though."

"Sure. Leave me some hot water though." Sam's words almost trip over themselves and he wants to bang his head on the table.

Dean doesn't say anything for a long second, then he just says "OK."

Sam hears the bathroom door shut. He holds his breath until the shower starts, then he gives in to temptation and drops his head into his hands. He'd hoped it would get better, that he'd learn to deal with this suddenly longing, or at least hide it, but instead, it's getting worse.

When Dean emerges from the shower, Sam's finally managed to get himself under control enough to pass Dean without looking, although he's painfully aware of the miles of damp skin within touching distance. He makes it to the bathroom and leans his forehead against the door. His cock is aching, but he's not feeling lust or desire at the moment, he's too busy trying to stop tears of frustration from falling. He's finally realised what he wants and it's slipping away and it hurts as much as losing Jess did. He can't help but wonder, in a moment of bitter selfishness, why he has to keep losing the things he loves the most.

He keeps the shower short and on the cool side. He can't bear to bring himself off, as if doing that will somehow doom him to making do with a pale imitation of the real thing forever.

When he finally leaves the bathroom, Dean's already in bed. Sam's pretty sure he's not asleep; neither of them have slept a full night in the last week. He turns the light off and climbs into his own bed. He turns on his side and the last thing he remembers when he drifts off to sleep, much quicker than he expected, is the curve of Dean's bare shoulder, painted in moonlight and shadow.

They both sleep late the next morning and for the first time in what feels like forever, Sam actually wakes feeling rested. They don't have to go to Cern until the afternoon, when he wants one final practice run of the ceremony before sunset. He'd also mentioned something about a purification ritual, but by that time, they'd been so tired that even Dean hadn't been able to raise any protest.

They grab a leisurely breakfast in the town's sole diner, where Sam tries not to show how maliciously pleased he is that the waitress, who only yesterday was flirting with his brother, is now curt almost to the point of rudeness.

Once she's slopped coffee in both their cups and flounced off with their order, Dean looks at Sam and says "Do you think it was the snow, or going to see Cern?" He sounds so genuinely curious that Sam can't help but laugh. Dean pulls a face, but there's a hint of a smile lurking at the corners of his mouth. Sam tries not to think about how little Dean has laughed lately. It's a good look for him.

Breakfast is followed by laundry. They both hate this chore, but it's better than living with the overpowering scent of the incense from the ritual. While Dean's off, fighting with the motel's laundry room, Sam opens the windows to air the room.

When Dean gets back, it's just about noon and they set off to Cern's place.

He's waiting for them, leaning against the door frame as he was the first time they saw him.

"Worried we wouldn't show?"

"No." Cern grins at Dean's slightly affronted look. He turns awkwardly on the crutches and they follow him back into the house.

He makes them spend the afternoon practicing meditation. He explains that before they perform the ritual they need to purify their minds; let go of all their negative thoughts and emotions. As the afternoon progresses, Cern makes them run through the ritual once more, then reminds them again about getting rid of negative thoughts. Sam tries to pretend that Cern doesn't give him a hard look when he says that.

They finally set out an hour or so before sunset, with all the candles and incense and oils and a hand drawn map of the clearing they're to use for the ritual tucked into an old knapsack that Cern provided.

Sam can feel something in the air, something like anticipation. It makes the hair on the back of his neck prickle and his skin feels extra sensitive; every puff of air feels a little like a caress. There's no doubt that there's something powerful in the air tonight.

The clearing is surprisingly easy to find. They set up as much of the paraphernalia as they can and then settle down to begin the purification.

With his eyes closed, Sam becomes hyper aware of his other senses. He can smell the clean scent of crushed grass, feel the gentle evening breeze ruffle his hair, hear the in and out of Dean's breath. He tries to clear his mind but he can't stop thinking about Dean, about all that they have been to each other and all that he wants them to be. The more he tries to shut the thought out, the bigger it gets, until it feels as though there's no room for anything else.

He opens his eyes. A second later, Dean opens his. In the slowly fading light, Dean's eyes appear incredibly green and Sam can't keep his thoughts to himself any more. Whatever the consequences, he needs to tell Dean how he feels about what happened; about what he wants for the two of them.

"Sam..."

Sam doesn't let him finish, just starts talking over him, because he's got to get the words out now, before he drowns under them.

"Dean... I need to tell you. I don't regret it. I know we aren't supposed to, but I want to, God. You have no idea. Dean, I'm sorry, I don't want to lose you, but I can't, I can't pretend it didn't mean anything, because it did. I want us to be everything; brothers, lovers, everything Dean. I mean it. I... I just needed to say it. Just, don't, please don't leave."

His heart is racing and he feels alternately hot and cold, and he's panting, but God, it's like a weight has been lifted. Whatever happens now, whatever Dean's reaction, just telling Dean, saying the words to his face has eased some of the ache he's been carrying.

Dean blinks, face strangely blank. He seems stunned, but he's not left yet, or lashed out, so maybe there's some hope for them after all.

When a few minutes go by without Dean moving or speaking, Sam starts to worry.

"Dean? Are you OK?"

It's as if a switch were flipped and Dean suddenly snaps back into life.

"Yeah. I'm... Yeah." He looks up at the sky then turns to look at the makeshift altar that they've built in the middle of the clearing. "We need to get the ritual started, it's almost sunset."

"Wait, did you hear what I said?" Sam scrambles to his feet as Dean gets up and heads for the ritual circle.

"I heard you Sam. We'll sort it out later, OK? Let's just get this ritual done first."

"Right. So when you say we'll sort it out later, what you mean is that you'll pretend nothing was ever said and hope things go back to the way they were, right?" The anger feels good after so many days of fear and uncertainty.

"No. When this is over, we will sort this out Sam. I promise. But right now, we need to perform this ritual."

The anger leaves as quickly as it arrived. Dean doesn't make promises he doesn't think he can keep. Sam has no idea how this is going to end, but he clings to the hope that maybe they can come out of this with some kind of relationship worth saving after all.

He takes a deep breath and finds it easier this time to let go of all the stress and pain. When he nods at Dean, they move through the first parts of the ritual, lighting the incense and anointing the chalice and the athame with the oil Cern gave them.

The rest of the ritual goes so smoothly it's as if they've done this for years. By the end of the ceremony, the air is almost crackling with static. Sam can taste the raw power, like touching his tongue to a battery. Right at the end of the ritual, when he's standing shoulder to shoulder with Dean, his bare forearm brushes against Dean's and he can't suppress the shiver that brief contact causes. What surprises him is the answering shudder that runs through Dean's body.

He half turns towards his brother at the same time that Dean turns towards him and the sense of anticipation is tangible. He's only distracted by the soft tink of metal against metal. He looks down to see that the chalice that he's holding and the athame in Dean's hand are touching. Sam doesn't know that much about pagan rituals, but he does know what it means when the athame and the chalice are brought together in a ceremony.

It means a sexual union of some form.

And all the fear, the worry, the weight of the last week seems to vanish. All of the doubts seem to melt away and drift off on the aromatic smoke.

He and Dean, they're meant to be. They always have been.

They complete the rest of the ritual, although Sam doesn't remember it at all. He's too busy thinking of all the things he wants to do to Dean when they get back to the motel room and the sudden, amazing hope that he's going to be allowed to do them.

The end of the ritual sends a sudden wave of energy rolling out over the countryside and Sam feels half drunk on it. A few flakes of snow appear out of the now dark sky and drift down, melting away before they touch the ground. Slowly, the power that'd built up seeps away, though it leaves Sam's skin tingling.

"Sam..." Dean's voice is soft and Christ, Sam remembers the last time Dean said it like that, low and breathy, as he was spilling semen over Sam's fingers.

It takes just two steps for Sam to be right in front of Dean and he's desperate, hard and aching and God, he wants. Not just Dean's body, though that's the most urgent need right now, no, he wants it all. Body, mind, soul. Everything that Dean is.

And he wants to give the same in return.

"God, Dean, please. Let me... Please." He doesn't recognise his own voice anymore, strained and pleading.

"Easy Sam. I get it. I didn't realise. I... I thought you'd be ashamed, I thought you were disgusted. Christ, Sam, I haven't thought about anything else. I thought you were going to leave." His hands are wrapped around Sam's biceps and his fingers are digging in hard enough to bruise. Sam couldn't care less.

He rests his hands on Dean's shoulders, trying to catch his breath, trying not to laugh at how damned stupid they've been.

"Christ, we're idiots. Dean, I want, can I...?"

"Yes, Sam. Yeah."

It's so easy then, to slide a hand up Dean's neck, fingers stroking over his brother's cheekbone and thumb rubbing at the corner of Dean's mouth. He's fascinated by the way Dean leans into the touch and the way his eyes half close. It's simple to lean down those couple of inches and press his lips against Dean's, slow and gentle.

Eventually Dean wraps an arm around Sam's waist and sinks his other hand in Sam's hair, tugging until he has the angle he wants, then he opens his mouth under Sam's and all the lust that Sam's been trying to hide roars through him like a forest fire.

He has no idea how they end up stretched out on the grass, half undressed, but he doesn't care. They can barely stand to let go of each other long enough to shed the rest of their clothes, but they manage it. The second he's naked, Sam finds himself flat on his back, Dean straddling his waist, bare cocks bumping as Dean shifts his weight.

There's something right about doing this, finally taking that final step, out here, in the open air, under the watchful eyes of the Kings they've honoured tonight, accepting this as another form of worship, an offering from one set of brothers to another.

He can hardly believe the pleasure of being able to reach up and pull Dean down into a kiss; of feeling all that naked skin against his; of hearing those muffled sounds that tell him just where and how to touch. He's so caught up in the sensations that when Dean twists and flips them, he's caught totally by surprise. Dean distracts him further by yanking his head down for a kiss that's perfectly lewd.

The first stroke of fingers behind his balls makes him jump, but then the mere thought of what Dean's asking with that gentle, reverential touch hits him like a train and he can't stop the shudder or the jerk of his hips. He's expecting the second touch and the first finger, sliding smoothly inside. He realises that Dean must have used the ritual oil to slick his fingers and there's a beautiful sense of right to that thought.

Dean spends forever teasing, fucking him with now one finger, now two, now one again, his other hand stroking over Sam's thighs, ghost-light touches on his cock and balls, a hint of fingernail over his nipples, all the while fucking his mouth almost brutally, until Sam's squirming and desperate.

When Dean finally slides his fingers away and wraps that greasy hand around Sam's hip, Sam sits up easily, although he's sorry he has to stop kissing Dean. He reaches back and steadies Dean, feeling the way tremors shake his brother's body. He lets himself slide slowly down, feeling his body open around Dean's cock. He's not exactly a virgin, but Christ, it's never felt like this.

"Sam, oh God, Sam." Dean's voice is actually shaking and he's staring at Sam like he's is everything Dean's ever wanted and he can't believe he's actually allowed to have it.

They stay like that for just a second, then Sam can't stay still any longer. He lifts up and then drops back down. Dean's back tries to arch and his fingernails dig into Sam's hips. He can feel the ache, deep inside from where Dean's cock is lodged and it's the most intense thing he's ever felt, joined like this, so intimately with his brother, his own flesh and blood.

He lifts up again, unable to ignore his body any longer, but Dean tightens his grip and forces him slower; agonising glide up and tortuous plummet down again. When Sam stops fighting and works against him at the speed that Dean wants, Dean moves one hand, sliding it down to stroke Sam's cock. Sam's back bows, skin feeling like it's too small. But Dean still won't allow him to speed up, just keeps him fucking, slow and deep.

Sam loses all track of time, of how often he thinks he's going to come, only for Dean to slow down even more, as if he knows Sam's body better than Sam does.

Finally, Sam can't stand it a second longer. He presses down and leans forward and finally, finally Dean gives in and lets Sam control the tempo. Sam knows he's got it right when Dean's hips snap up as he's pressing down and Sam can feel it starting. He waits until Dean's cock is almost slipping out of him, then he sinks his teeth into the tender skin of Dean's shoulder. Dean's hips drive up brutally and his shout is shockingly loud. The sweet edge of pain is all Sam needs for the orgasm to sweep over him, tearing him apart.

When it finally subsides, he's slumped over Dean, shaking and gasping and unsure whether he's laughing or crying. Dean cups Sam's check and helps him lift his head enough that they can kiss, slow and soft. He presses his forehead to Dean's when the kiss gradually slows.

He has no idea how long they lay there, but when Dean finally shoves at him, he's chilled and his knees ache unpleasantly, as do several other places. He's not in the slightest bit sorry though.

They don't speak as they gather up their clothes and dress. They collect up all the candles and incense burners and the athame and chalice and all the other stuff.

The walk back to Cern's house seems to take no time at all. He's waiting at the back door this time. He takes one look at them and a huge grin splits his face. Sam can feel the blush spread over his cheeks. He's not ashamed of what they've done, but that doesn't mean he wants people to know.

"Oh, please. He's going to be so smug. Damn hippy." Dean grumbles under his breath.

But when they reach Cern, he doesn't say anything, just tells them to put the knapsack in the other room. When they get back to the kitchen, there are two mugs of gently steaming tea and Cern's seated at the table, sipping on his own cup.

They drink their tea in silence. Sam can't help pressing his knee up against Dean's and he feels ridiculously happy when Dean presses back. It's nice not to have to make small talk; there's a sense of peace and comfort sitting in Cern's kitchen and Sam's all to aware that the outside world will intrude on the calm between he and Dean soon enough. He's selfish enough to want to make this peace last as long as possible.

When they've finished their tea, Cern hobbles to the door with them and just as they're about to leave, he pulls first Dean and then Sam into a tight, but brief hug.

"Thank you. Go in peace and be blessed."

Dean just nods. Sam has the feeling he's grinning like an idiot, but since the other two don't call him on it, he can't bring himself to care.

The first rays of the sun are just clearing the horizon as they walk back to the motel; the start of a new day that feels a lot like the start of the rest of Sam's life.

When they get to the room, Sam knows that they're both too tired to do anything more than strip and climb into bed; the same bed, together. It's enough to finally be able to curl up around against his brother, to touch and be touched.

He slides into sleep and for the first time in a long time, he doesn't dream of fire. Instead he dreams of snow and the scent of incense.